Gareth Hughes

TPPA: terms and trades of copyright

by Gareth Hughes

There are many concerning aspects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), most notably the fact that it is being negotiated in secret but the intellectual property provisions recently revealed are deeply worrying..

The leaked intellectual property chapter reveals serious disputes between NZ and US negotiators. The proposals, driven by US corporations, push for substantial changes that will lead to all New Zealanders paying more for movies, DVDs and books. Russel Norman has called on the New Zealand Government to not give in to the US over the TPPA.

I recently blogged on the TPPA risks to copyright exemptions, temporary copies and technological protection measures but I would like to draw your attention to Creative Freedom NZ who have written an interesting blog post after their discussion with David Walker, NZ’s Chief Negotiator for the TPPA. They raise some valid concerns that intellectual property provisions in New Zealand may be traded away for dairy deals and highlight the risks to ‘orphan works.’

One part that struck me was around copyright terms:

Angela Strahl, who is handling the IP chapter, stated that NZ’s Parallel Importing abilities are likely to stay unchanged, as is the ability to set our own limitations and exceptions to our domestic Copyright law. However, it was strongly hinted at that an extension of our Copyright Term is inevitable.

As Walker put it: only three of the twelve countries involved in the negotiations currently have a Life + 50 copyright term (NZ, Canada, and Japan); no-one has signed a trade agreement with the US that hasn’t included at least a Life + 70 year copyright term; and if you were to place a bet on what way NZ was going to go, those are some pretty big odds.

I looked at what this would mean for New Zealand music and literature a while back and found many Kiwi classics would be out of the public domain for decades if copyright terms were extended. An iconic song that would be impacted by the copyright extension is the Fourmyula’s “Nature” which was voted the best New Zealand song ever written. Produced in 1969 this song should enter the public domain in 2020 to be remixed, re-played, and re-imagined however under proposed TPPA rules Kiwis would have to wait to 2040! Looking at books, New Zealand’s first ever gay novel, works of James K Baxter and Dame Ngaio Marsh would similarly be affected. Longer copyright terms are not going to incentivise creatives to create more; they are just going to cost the public being able to access these works of art.


Gareth with some books currently set to enter the public domain but could be affected by the TPPA.

Gareth with some books currently set to enter the public domain but could be affected by the TPPA.

I think New Zealand should have a conversation about what copyright means to us and its purpose is in 2013 and New Zealanders should decide what the appropriate length should be – not decided in secretive ‘behind closed doors’ meetings where for a little bit more dairy access we may trade away our ability to set our own rules.

If you would like to do something about it check out the Fair Deal website.


Published in Society & Culture by Gareth Hughes on Thu, November 14th, 2013   

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